Irwin returns to storytelling for third time

Published 9:10 pm Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Hold on to your seat. Andy’s back in town so prepare for liftoff.

Andy Offutt Irwin returns to the Pike Piddlers Storytelling Festival for the third time. He has also appeared at the sponsoring Brundidge Historical Society’s annual Chili Country Christmas. And, each time, the Georgia storyteller has delighted audiences with his wild and wacky ways and stories of his 80-year old aunt Marguerite Van Camp.

Irwin’s fictional aunt founded Southern White Old Lady Hospital in rural Georgia because, as he explains in Marguerite’s old lady voice, “all our husbands have moved on and we’re tired of the garden club and the bridge club and the ladies’ club. So Mary Frances and Julia and I all went back to medical school.”

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While Aunt Marguerite is fictional, Irwin loosely based the character on his “unabashed and delightfully inappropriate,” mother and his “genteel, bun-haired” grandmother, who is a lady of means.

“I was raised by Southern women so I imitate a lot of them,” Irwin said. “My grandmother was born in 1894 and Aunt Marguerite’s voice is my grandmother’s voice tempered with my mother’s attitude. Aunt Marguerite evolved from a nurse character I created to entertain my mother when she was hospitalized.”

Susan Berry is a huge fan of the Pike Piddlers Storytelling Festival and “loves” every story that is told.

“Andy Irwin, who can forget him? I love his Aunt Marguerite, who is a doctor,” Berry said. “She is such a fun and interesting character and we’ve all known someone like her. But more than I enjoy Aunt Marguerite – more than anything else – I am so touched when Andy Irwin talks about his handicapped son. You can feel his emotion and it touches your heart. I am moved to him.”

Berry said the storytellers take the audience on an emotional roller coaster ride from belly laughs to lumps in the throat.

“That’s the magic of storytelling.”

Irwin said that the Pike Piddlers Storytelling Festival is one of his favorite venues and the We Piddle Around Theater is a magical place.

“The We Piddle Around Theater is what the Cracker Barrel tries to be,” Irwin said. “But the We Piddle Around Theater is real. The Trojan Center Theater is a great place for storytelling. I love being in Brundidge and Troy.”

The 7th Annual Pike Piddlers Storytelling Festival features Irwin, Donald Davis, Sheila Kay Adams and Michael Reno Harrell, all back by popular demand.

The Saturday storytelling concerts are at 10 a.m. ($10), and 2 ($10) and 6:30 p.m. ($15) at the Trojan Center Theater on the campus of Troy University.

Pre-show music begins 30 minutes prior to the storytelling concerts. The Broken Strings Bluegrass Band will perform at the morning concert, The Benton Brothers & Company in the afternoon and The Lighthouse String Ensemble in the evening.

For tickets, call 334-735-3125 or 334-670-6302. Tickets are available at Studio 116 in Brundidge and The Messenger in Troy.

The Pike Piddlers Storytelling Festival is sponsored in part by the Alabama State Council on the Arts with support from the National Endowment for the Arts.